In the aftermath of the Obama Administration’s cancellation of the Constellation program, agency workers may be shell shocked and confused over what is next for the space agency – but that didn’t stop them from successfully lighting the candle on the space shuttle Endeavour. With the shuttle program winding down – every launch these days represents a last – and this was the last scheduled night launch – of course a a few slips could change that.
The Endeavour Six – led by Marine Colonel George Zamka – charged uphill and put the international space station in their sites. The space station now looks like – well – a space station – prompting veteran astronaut Steve Robinson to was eloquent in an inflight interview with some local TV stations.
“To look up and see what humankind could really accomplish in space was just almost impossible to believe, It seemed like science fiction,” he said. “Now here we are with human beings that are living on board. That truly is the amazing legacy of the space shuttle program.”
As Endeavour homed in on ISS – the stationkeepers put the orbiter in their sites – taking a series of 400 and 800 millimeter telephoto hi resolution shots of the thermal protection system. The pictures revealed a protruding ceramic fastener near the cockpit windows. The team is trying to determine what damage risk there is should it come loose during reentry – and there is a tile on the upper surface of the crew module of the orbiter that had been repaired – and that repair has apparently failed. We are told worry meter for these is on the low setting. The main goal of the mission: to deliver the last big connecting piece – or Node. This one is called Tranquility – and has a seven window cupola that will offer the crew a stunningly clear view of the earth as it whizzes beneath them.